Minister of Labour and Productivity, Prince Adetokumbo Kayode (SAN), has been petitioned by aggrieved workers allegedly sacked by Unilever Plc.
The workers, who are sixty-one in all, were workers in both Oregun and Agbara offices of the multi-national company.
Spokesman of the former Unilever employees, Mr. Idono Omokenu, who was a signatory to the petition, alleged that the workers were fired by the company’s management following a protest by them over non-payment of their Christmas bonuses and packages.
The petition dated September 7, 2009 and made available to the Nigerian Tribune and it reads in part: “In year 2007, workers in Oregun and Agbara offices of Unilever Plc demanded that management should increase our bonus and Christmas package. The Management promised the workers to wait till 2008 for the increment and the workers did not hesitate.
“When November 2008 came, the workers, through the union, sent a reminder to management to fulfill their promise but the management reneged on their promise and told the workers that the company could not afford any increment.
“Several meetings were held subsequently between the workers and management to try and arrest a brewing industrial action but to no avail.”
The ex-worker then resorted to protest to drive home their demand, which, according to their petition, led to the arrest of some of the workers’ union executive.“On Friday 7th November, 2008, five members of staff and two union executive were also arrested. The strike action was suspended on the l0th November 2008. Afterwards, the management of Unilever decided to summarily dismiss 61 workers; all of whom have worked with the company for between five and 27 years,” the petitioners further alleged.
The petitioners, under the aegis of Victimised Workers of Unilever Nigeria Plc, appealed to the minister to intervene in their plight and save their family from the hardship they are subjected to as a result of their sack without their entitlements being given to them.
In their words, the petitioners wrote: “Sir, we the victimised workers of Unilever Plc are, by the petition, seeking your intervention to save our soul and our dying families. We want to be re-instated to our jobs with full benefits. Even if the company wants to disengage us, it will be the height of injustice to disengage a man from his job of 27years without his due benefits.
“Many of us now have our children out of school. One person has died because of the associated trauma, in the face of the global melt down, our lives have been made miserable and we believe that our nation has structures that should intervene and save us this blatant injustice.”
The petitioners accused Unilever of frustrating all attempts at finding an amicable solution to the problem, adding “but we have also refused to lose hope. We trust and pray fervently that at the end of our struggle, we will get adequate recompense.”